George: Changes won't harm IndyCar
11 July 2009
Former Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IRL CEO and president Tony George has finally broken his silence over the reshuffle that saw him forced to relinquish his control over the most famous motorsport venue in the world and, in a surprise move, the Indy Racing League as well.
The board of directors at Hulman & Company, which owns Indianapolis, announced a reorganisation at the end of last month, which saw George usurped by veteran IMS executives W Curtis Brighton and Jeffrey G Belskus, and then offer to step down as chief of the IRL, which he launched as a breakaway from the CART Champ Car World Series in 1996.
Speaking for the first time since the reshuffle, George issued a statement via his Vision Racing team's official website to explain the reasoning behind his decision to quit the one last organisation under his control - and also to insist that there will be no damage done to the IRL in his absence.
"Nearly 20 years ago, I was asked by my family to represent our business as president and chief executive officer," he wrote, "Since accepting that position, I have served at the pleasure of the board and, in doing so, I enthusiastically agreed to commit myself to stewardship of a great institution. While my service as CEO has now ended, I consider my stewardship to be a life-long appointment.
"At a board meeting a little over a month ago, the board of directors of Hulman & Company and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway asked me to propose a management reorganisation that would focus my duties exclusively upon the operation, promotion and development of the Indy Racing League, which I founded in 1994 and have overseen the development of since 1996.
"At a board meeting [in the last week of June], I was asked to continue as CEO of the Indy Racing League, reporting to a new president and CEO of IMS. In my view, this would have created an unnecessary bureaucratic layer between the people in the operations of the IRL and the CEO of IMS that had not previously existed. From the perspective of my experience as president and CEO of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, I am acutely aware that the interests of IndyCar racing as a sport, the IRL as a league, and the most important motorsports race in the world, are mutually dependant and inter-connected, both now and in the future. I did not feel that a subordinate position as 'CEO of the IRL' was a management vehicle which would allow me to accomplish the objectives that the family and the board requested me to pursue, [so] I declined that position.
"Since our May board meeting, as requested, I have offered my advice to the board on management reorganisation, but also, and perhaps more importantly, a reorganisation of our board, which would provide a structure for better governance for generations to come. It is my belief that, with the recent unification of open-wheel racing, the focus should be on the future rather than the past.
"I am encouraged that, in recent conversations with my mother - and chairman of the board - Mari George, I learned that she also sees the wisdom of taking a forward-looking approach which will provide consistent and co-ordinated leadership. In the near future, I will be providing a proposal for the board to evaluate. I have been assured by the chairman that the board will engage in appropriate dialogue, with constructive give and take.
"The success of any organisation relies on strong leadership from management to execute strategies that focus on achieving results, and a board whose vision is focused on owner and stakeholder returns.
"There have been many questions raised in the industry and in the media about whether any of these recent changes reflect a reduction in the commitment of our family or the IMS to the IRL or the sport of IndyCar racing. I have been assured by my mother that no such reduction of support or commitment is intended or anticipated. I can assure teams, sponsors, media and fans that our family is sincere in its commitment to the Indianapolis 500, the League and the sport."
George will continue to head up Vision Racing's 2009 IndyCar campaign as open-wheel racing returns to the streets of Toronto for the first time under IRL auspices this weekend. The venue was a favourite on the Champ Car calendar, but missed out in 2008 following the unification of US open-wheel racing's two factions.